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What Happens to Customer Service When Unemployment Hits Historic Lows? - Blue Ocean Contact Centers - Blog

What Happens to Customer Service When Unemployment Hits Historic Lows?

A low unemployment rate is cause for celebration. It means people are working, paying taxes, and bringing home the bacon. That’s why most people see the current 3.6% US unemployment rate as fantastic news – it’s an astronomical improvement over the 10% unemployment rate after the 2008-09 Great Recession.

But there’s a hitch for folks who are tasked with hiring, especially those hiring for contact center teams: when more people are working, there are fewer active job seekers. It’s of little surprise, then, that 45% of US employers report difficulty in filling jobs. For larger companies, that rate is 67%. In particular, customer service agents are among the most in-demand roles in the US, making them extremely difficult to fill. As a result, finding available, high-quality talent to fill jobs for US-based contact center operators – whether staffing inhouse centers or outsourced - is increasingly challenging.

But there is good news. While the US unemployment rate is, as we’ll discuss in more detail below, concerningly low, it’s relationship with the Canadian unemployment rate is consistent – that is, for over two decades, the Canadian rate has sat a little higher, currently at 5.8%. This seemingly small but significant difference positions Canada as the perfect place for outsourcing – especially for companies who are looking for onshore solutions.

What Full Employment Means for Contact Centers

Most economists consider an unemployment rate below 5% as “full employment.” In other words, almost everyone who is willing and able to work is employed. It’s a term that often goes hand-in-hand with the label “zero unemployment.”

Essentially, with the US rate at a near-50 year low of 3.6%, this means that the vast majority of people who make up the unemployment rate are unemployed because they are unable or unwilling to work. So, US employers are faced not only with a smaller available labor pool, that pool tends to be made up of people who are also less qualified than the available labor pool of ten years ago. Add the fact that there are more US job openings than unemployed Americans, and the dilemma is clear.

In spite of some of those persistent negative stereotypes about the contact center industry, delivering an optimal customer experience does require business acumen, technical/digital skill, and emotional intelligence – and that’s just for starters (more info on the ideal agent profile here). The best agents are educated, have great communication skills, want to do meaningful work for great brands, and are pumped up about the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. For talent acquisition teams, the challenge now is to woo people who are already employed into ditching their jobs and coming to work for you. If you’ve been in the trenches of hiring for US call centers, it’s hard not to toss a cynical “good luck with that” remark out there.

But in Canada, with an unemployment rate above the “full employment” line, at 5.8%, there are still able-and-willing-and-qualified candidates available for work. If you look to metropolitan areas in Canada, the rate is even more attractive – 6.6% in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for example. And this workforce is also well-educated – over 70% of adults in Halifax have post-secondary education. This creates a rich talent pool of people who fit the ideal profile of a contact center agent.

The Dilemma of Rising Wages in the US

Economists tell us that when wage inflation occurs at a faster rate than the pace of price inflation (as is the case in the US), a company’s margins decrease, making it harder to keep up with rising wages. That spurs employers to dip into that less talented labor pool, and that, in turn, inevitably impacts productivity and quality of products and services. In the contact center, the customer experience often suffers as a result, which directly reflects on the integrity of the brand and reduces customer loyalty (for more insight about the true cost of losing a customer, click here).

Again, in Canada, this is less of an issue. With greater access to available talent, the competition isn’t quite so cut-throat, and wage growth subsequently occurs at a more balanced pace, on par with cost inflation. As such, there’s no need to turn to less-qualified talent or consider exponential increases in compensation. The extra bonus to outsourcing to Canada is that the US-Canadian exchange rate is highly attractive to American companies, at 1 US Dollar to 1.33 Canadian Dollars. That means your money goes further, freeing you entirely from the challenge of rising US wages.

The Wait to Find Good Candidates

Even if US employers do decide to increase wages to attract more contact center talent, those candidates aren’t going to show up overnight. Unfortunately, time to hire is on the rise – a current average of 42 days, leaving many positions open for longer than ever before.

This is partly due to the lack of talent, but also a result of how candidates are responding to the competitive US job market. More companies are experiencing “ghosting,” where candidates simply disappear in the recruitment process, chasing after new opportunities without following up on others. When this happens further into the process, after scheduling an interview or even making an offer, employers end up back at square one, lengthening the process even more.

The amount of time spent in the recruitment process directly impacts a contact center’s KPIs. For example, if the team of frontline agents is short-staffed, that’s likely going to result in longer ASA, especially during peak volume hours, days, or seasons. Agents under pressure may struggle to achieve first-call resolution or succeed in creating a positive customer experience.

There’s also the immeasurable impact – the stress that an under-staffed team experiences is detrimental to employee morale and engagement. And while happy employees make for happy customers, the opposite is also true. Ultimately, your customer experience could be at risk.

At Blue Ocean, we might be a little biased – Halifax, Nova Scotia, is home to our headquarters and we are Canadians at heart. But the truth is, our contact center just might be the solution if you’re faced with the challenges of the US unemployment rate and its impact on your workforce. Just ask any of our US-based clients about the value we bring to their businesses. Say the word and we’ll send you our client roster or hook you up with a client reference.

Looking for hard numbers? Let’s chat! Request pricing here or drop us a line to find out more.


Publish Date: July 3, 2019 5:00 AM

2021 Buyers Guide Help Desk Software

eGain Corporation

eGain CallTrack™
eGain CallTrack™ is a dynamic call tracking and case management solution that helps companies provide quick, high-quality, and cost-efficient resolution of customer issues across traditional and emerging interaction channels. It is one of the many innovative customer interaction products in eGain Solve™ suite, the unified customer engagement and knowledge management software suite, which helps businesses transform their traditional call centers into omnichannel customer engagement hubs. eGain CallTrack will enable you to track, manage and resolve cases and maintain service level agreements (SLA), across channels.


Happitu is your customer support team’s personal coach. It guides your team through every interaction with custom workflows, responsive scripting, and dynamic help topics.

Documentation in Happitu is automated, detailed, and consistent. Go beyond handle times and service levels with the rich insights of Happitu – from granular interaction data to aggregate data and trends – you get the complete CX journey!

We intentionally built the Happitu Workflow Designer with your customer support team in mind. Using our intuitive tools that provide quick and safe iteration, you eliminate the need to involve IT or Development. Yes, you will no longer have to dread submitting a change request to Devin from IT!

Try it free for 45 days!
PH: 833-427-7488


Knowmax is an omnichannel knowledge management platform. Our mission is to transform contact centers into resolution centers and drive customer self service.
The platform is an industry-agnostic enterprise-grade knowledge platform with components helping in easy findability of actionable information at the right time across the desired touchpoint.
PH: +91 9702626568

Nuxiba Technologies

Nuxiba's Help Desk Software is ideal for delivering top-level contact help desk services. It not only tailors to your existing technology resources but also allows you to set staff priorities that forward clients to the most knowledgeable agents.

Give personalized assistance, and analyze performance with our real-time monitoring, recording, and reports. Integrate Salesforce or VTiger CRM systems, be TCPA compliant, protect your cardholder's data during calls, and more!

Request a quote or demo today and start the journey to increase your first-contact resolution percentages in less than three months!


OneDesk's software combines Helpdesk & Project Management into one application. No need to purchase, integrate and switch between applications. Your team can support your customers and work on projects in one place. Aimed at SMBs as well as departments at large enterprises, OneDesk is frequently used by project managers, customer service, IT, professional services and more. This easy-to-use, feature-rich, and highly configurable software can manage both ticket & task workflows.
PH: (514) 731-6878

Teckinfo Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

ActivDesk Help Desk Software
ActivDesk Help Desk Software is an intelligent ticketing software for multi- channel customer interaction & engagement. It streamlines the entire ticket management process. With its SLA & escalation management, it enables your help desk to deliver enriching customer experience.

View more from Blue Ocean Contact Centers

Recent Blog Posts:
What Happens to Customer Service When Unemployment Hits Historic Lows?July 3, 2019 5:00 AM
Keep Your Contact Center in North America Without Breaking the BankJune 24, 2019 5:00 AM
Oh, the Places You’ll Go: The 4 Contact Center Location ConsiderationsJune 13, 2019 5:00 AM
Before You Go to RFP, Get Friendly: A Guide to On-Site Contact Center VisitsMay 29, 2019 5:00 AM
Up Where Expectations Soar: Customer Care in the Age of EntitlementApril 15, 2019 5:00 AM
How to Engage Gen Z in the Contact CenterMarch 26, 2019 5:00 AM
Blue Ocean Wins 2019 Silver Stevie® Award in 13th Annual Stevie Awards for Customer ServiceFebruary 26, 2019 5:00 AM
Empowering Your Team to Deliver Kick-Ass Customer ExperienceFebruary 25, 2019 5:00 AM
Are You Using 1999 Metrics to Measure 2019 Customer Care?February 7, 2019 5:00 AM
Which 2019 Consumer Trends Will Impact Your Customer Experience Strategy?January 22, 2019 5:00 AM

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